There are some really great edge rushers in the 2019 NFL Draft. Nick Bosa, Josh Allen, and Brian Burns are all likely to be top-10 picks, with Montez Sweat and Clelin Ferrell also first round prospects. But there is one player who was a member of that group up until the NFL Combine. Florida’s Jachai Polite was seen as the perfect player for the Green Bay Packers to take 12th overall, if he lasted that long.
His college tape was exceptional; he displayed an incredibly combination of burst, speed, and pass rush moves. The only real pro comparison for him is Denver’s Von Miller. ClutchPoints’ Nicholas McGee wrote a great article on him in early March. But Polite has bombed the entire pre-draft process, and now could fall all the way to the third round. Still, his potential as an elite speed-rusher makes him an extremely enticing prospect, in spite of his concerns.
Polite stands 6’3″ and measured in at 258lbs at the Combine. At the time, this was a very good weight for him, as he showed he could add on the extra mass that he would likely need in order to play every down in the NFL. The problem is that he likely played in college around 230lbs-240lbs.
These extra 20lbs-30lbs robbed him of his quickness, and he bowed out of the combine with a hamstring injury (which some scouts felt was just a cop-out and an excuse for his terrible performance) after posting an incredibly disappointing 4.84-second 40-yard dash and 32″ vertical jump.
Polite also interviewed very poorly, talking about how teams bashed him, only showed his bad plays, and how he had never watched film of himself. Polite came off as immature and woefully unprepared. Perhaps this is indicative of future behavior, or maybe it’s just a case of bad advice. Whatever the case, teams must do their homework and make sure they are comfortable with drafting Polite the person.
Polite the player is a surefire top-15 prospect this year. His pure quickness off the edge is unmatched. In 11 games in 2018, he put up 11 sacks, 19.5 tackles for loss, and four passes defended.
If an offensive tackle isn’t able to get his hands on Polite’s chest immediately, it’s game over. Once Polite hits the edge, his closing speed is spectacular, and because of his 6’3″ frame, he doesn’t have the balance issues that plague taller players like Montez Sweat. Polite’s bend is exceptionally good.
Polite isn’t strong, but he’s not a complete weakling either. In this clip the RT isn’t able to push him downfield to increase his rush arc, and Polite is able to close in on the quarterback and knock down the pass.
Polite again shows off his elite burst and bend. Because of his current draft stock, Polite will likely be a complementary rusher on his NFL team. He could very well be the best secondary rusher in the league as a rookie.
To be fair, Polite isn’t exactly beating up on NFL-caliber tackles in these clips, but he’s absolutely manhandling these guys, and his vastly superior quickness is obvious.
What can you do to stop this? You could try cheating outside in order to push him downfield.
But if you do that, Polite will unleash a disgusting spin move. The best way to defend against Polite’s speed terror is to be proactive, not reactive. Take the attack to him and get your hands in on his chest before he’s able to burst right by you. But then if Polite learns how to use a club-and-rip effectively, look out NFL QBs.
Polite also shows great effort, chasing down plays across the field. Where he struggles is in the run game. He can get bullied by tackles, especially big maulers. He gives consistent effort and will make a good TFL every now and then due to his speed and technique, but he just isn’t big enough to avoid being easily moved.
A team could ask Polite to play around 245lbs-250lbs, but that would be taking away from his best asset, which is his quickness. Instead of trying to make Polite into something he isn’t, his new team should just take advantage of his strengths and attempt to hone his natural talent even more.
Teach Polite to use his hands better, how to string together pass-rush moves, and how to counter an offensive lineman’s hand usage. Even if he’s only used for two downs against the pass, his effectiveness in that role will be excellent value for a mid-second-round pick, which is where he is currently projected to be drafted.
Polite clearly has the athleticism to drop into coverage, so adding that to his game will only make his pass rushing better, as teams will be forced to consider the possibility of him playing the pass instead of rushing.
Polite will no longer be one of the first pass-rushers drafted, but if he is able to return his body to its 2018 form and show he has matured and learned from his mistakes at the Combine, he could end up being the best value in the entire Draft.